The conclusions of numerous stream restoration assessments all around the world are extremely clear and convergent: there has been insufficient appropriate monitoring to improve general knowledge and expertise. In the specialized field of instream flow alterations, we consider that there are several opportunities comparable to full-size experiments. Hundreds of water management decisions related to instream flow releases have been made by government agencies, native peoples, and non-governmental organizations around the world. These decisions are based on different methods and assumptions and many flow regimes have been adopted by formal or informal rules and regulations. Although, there have been significant advances in analytical capabilities, there has been very little validation monitoring of actual outcomes or research related to the response of aquatic dependent species to new flow regimes. In order to be able to detect these kinds of responses and to better guide decision, a general design template is proposed. The main steps of this template are described and discussed, in terms of objectives, hypotheses, variables, time scale, data management, and information, in the spirit of adaptive management. The adoption of such a framework is not always easy, due to differing interests of actors for the results, regarding the duration of monitoring, nature of funding and differential timetables between facilities managers and technicians. Nevertheless, implementation of such a framework could help researchers and practitioners to coordinate and federate their efforts to improve the general knowledge of the links between the habitat dynamics and biological aquatic responses. Copyright ?? 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.